With its win over Chicago State on Saturday, the Liberty Flames were named Laguna Madre Division champions of the South Padre Island Invitational.
Liberty picked up its second straight win on Saturday, wrapping up the South Padre Island Invitational with a 67-65 overtime victory over Chicago State. The extra period allowed the Flames to take home some hardware, as they were crowned champions of the tournament's Laguna Madre Division. With the victory, Liberty improves to 4-4 on the season, while the Cougars fall to 3-4. Much like yesterday, both teams traded baskets in the early minutes. The Flames then began creating distance, scoring four unanswered points. Jesse Sanders showcased his passing skills, executing a behind the back pass to David Minaya. After a Minaya layup attempt, John Brown cleaned up the missed shot with a tip in, giving the Flames an 8-4 cushion at 16:40. Following a Chicago State basket made it a one-possession game, Evan Gordon knocked down a three-pointer at 14:43 to put the Flames up by five, 11-6. Liberty went on a scoring drought from field over the next 5:34, managing only two made free throws during the span. The Cougars pounced on the opportunity, netting seven unanswered points to knot the contest at 13-13. Chicago State's Jonathan Montgomery concluded the Cougar run at 8:35, draining a three-pointer to tie the contest. The Flames responded 34 ticks later, as John Brown laid it in underneath the basket to regain the lead, 15-13. Liberty continued to find its rhythm inside and along the perimeter. Holding a two point lead, 21-19, at 5:25, Liberty proceeded to go on a 9-0 run. Minaya demonstrated a hot hand during the stretch, hitting a long two-point jumper and a three-pointer on the next possession, giving the Flames a 28-19 advantage with under three minutes remaining in the period. Sanders added a basket a minute later, to cement the burst. Following two Chicago State free throws, Liberty closed out the half with four-straight points. John Brown christened the opening stanza, throwing down a thunderous two-handed jam with eight seconds left, allowing the Flames to carry a 34-21 halftime advantage into the locker room. The Flames finished the period with its best 20-minute shooting performance of the season, hitting 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) shots from the field. Liberty also demonstrated solid defense during the stanza, holding the Cougars to 26.7 (8-of-30) percent from the field. Minaya led all scorers with nine points at the half, while Brown finished the period with eight. Carl Montgomery was the Cougars leading scorer in first half with eight tallies. Liberty proved dominant in the paint during the period, outscoring Chicago State inside, 24-8. In the second period, Burrus added to the Flames advantage with a made free throw. The Cougars then chipped away at the Liberty lead with a traditional three-point play. Gordon countered for the Flames, sinking a trey at 17:40 to make it 38-24. Chicago State rallied over the ensuing 4:12, going on a 13-0 run to close the gap to one. Minaya halted the Cougars burst with a jumper at 13:28 to make it 40-37, Liberty. After a Jesse Sanders layup gave the Flames a five-point lead, the Cougars answered with a five-point spurt, knotting the contest, 42-42, with 10:42 remaining in the contest. With the game tied at 44, Chicago State took its first lead of the contest with under eight minutes left, when Victor Scott finished a fast break layup to give the Cougars a 46-44 lead. The Cougar advantage was short lived, as Gordon posted a three-pointer and an inside jumper, creating a three-point edge for the Flames at 6:05, 49-46. The contest remained close down the stretch, with each team matching each other bucket for bucket. Tied at 58, Brown hit a jumper with 23 seconds remaining. Chicago State's Antonio Lofton answered at the other end with a layup with four ticks left to knot it at 60. Jesse Sanders attempted to become the game's hero with a three-point attempt. The floor general's shot landed just to the left of the rim, forcing Liberty's second overtime of the season. The Flames came out the gate in the extra period, scoring four straight points to take a 64-60 lead. The Cougars responded with five tallies of their own to regain the lead, 65-64, with 2:31 remaining. With under 19 seconds left a blocking foul sent Minaya to the foul line. The redshirt junior sunk the first shot to knot the contest at 65. A rebound by Joel Vander Pol off the miss of the second shot allowed the Flames to keep the possession. After another foul by Chicago State, John Brown hit another free throw to put the Flames in the lead, 66-65, with four ticks left. Brown sunk one more foul shot for the Flames in the remaining seconds, sealing the 67-65 win in overtime. Four Flames finished with double digits in the contest – Brown (16), Minaya (14), Burrus (14) and Gordon (13). Brown earned his fourth double-double of season, grabbing 15 boards to accompany his scoring effort. Carl Montgomery led all scorers with 21 points, while Lofton chipped in 15 points for the Cougars. For his performance throughout the invitational, Minaya was named to the all-tournament team. Liberty shot 43.8 percent (28-of-64) from the field, while holding Chicago State to 32.8 percent (21-of-64). The Flames return to the Vines Center next Thursday to begin the conference season, playing host to Presbyterian College. Liberty leads the budding series against the conference competitor, 4-3. Last season, the Flames swept the Blue Hose winning inside the Templeton Center, 77-67, on Jan.7 and in the Vines Center on Feb. 6, 60-57. The eighth meeting between the two squads will be broadcast on MASN 9 p.m.